Skip to main content

Full text of "Julian Grenfell"

See other formats

Meynell, Viola 
Julian Grenfell 











hit ed from THE DUBLIN REVIEW 






JULIAN GRENFELL had such shining qualities of 
youth, such strength and courage and love, that to 
others who are young he seems like the perfection of 
themselves. They know so well day by day just what 
their own youth can fall to and rise to ; and it is when 
their youth rises most, to its utmost fierceness and 
tenderness, that they come near to him, who was made 
of those things. And the young can mourn in their own 
special way the young that die ; it is they who realize 
that when a man of few years dies, a mature man and an 
old man die too ; and it is they who have ahead of them 
all their maturity and age in which still to want the 
companionship that has failed. They look forward to all 
those " partings still to be." They have lost a known 
friend now, but all their lives they will be losing someone 
different, and unimaginable. (It is one of the terrors of 
their loss of one they love the thought that in what he 
would have become and said and thought and done, he is 
unknown like a stranger.) They know that hardly an 
event will arise in their most distant days which will 
not be far less than it might have been. As they look 
forward to their sure and simple possessions which they 
prize, weather and firelight and activity and growth, the 
friend who would have contributed a richness they cannot 
imagine is only a phantom there dear, and growing 
stranger. They have plenty of time ahead to be losers of 
so many things what, they will never know. The young 
are like a mourner who lingers on at a grave after all the 
others have departed. 

When Julian Grenfell, who died when he was twenty- 
seven, sent home from the trenches his poem Into Battle 
he not only sent great and pure poetry but also tidings 
about the fighter that had the sound of his own single 
discovery. The noble self-sacrifice of the fighter was 
well known, and in everyone's heart ; the mere adven- 
turous joy in the clash of arms with which some could 
carry through this many-sided task of battle was known 

Julian Grenfell 

too. But, though it may not have fallen to Julian 
Grenfell alone to feel, it has fallen to him alone to express 
those two things so combined until they brought to him 
the certainty of Nature's utter sanction of the fighter, and 
the consciousness of the whole universe upholding him 
with all her mysteries. For what he wrote of a kind of 
natural ecstasy in the upright soldier's heart, Julian 
Grenfell is among the most notable figures of an age at 
war. And in another way he was a shining example of 
one of the great qualities the war has brought to light 
that of filial love. 

He was born, the eldest son of Lord Desborough, in 
1888, and went first to Summer Fields, and then to Eton 
and Oxford. He and his brother Billy were like twins, 
though Julian was two years older. During the whole of 
their school and college career they made one long record 
of triumphs, so that in all those years of Summer Fields, 
Eton and Balliol, as each time there arose the crisis of 
suspense when examinations drew near, so each time came 
news of the uttermost success. When Julian left Summer 
Fields for Eton at the age of thirteen he already had a 
serious conscious love of religion such as was the tradition 
of his home. He was to have a life of wild physical 
activity, but he had a faith which could never be out- 
stripped or left apart even from the boldest venture. He 
linked his belief to all the physical activities that he so 
much loved. Faith has been carried among strange 
scenes and places by men in their enterprises, but faith has 
ridden her maddest rides with Julian, and with him on 
horseback made her wildest leaps into the air. All his 
life, faith was the implicit companion of his energies. 
But now this thirteen-year-old belief was a very definite 
straightforward thing, and had its expression in the 
simplest words. He was still at Summer Fields. There 
had been a very bad thunderstorm. He said : " I 
suddenly seemed to realize God." It was with him as 
with the poet who wrote : " I saw Eternity the other 
night." In his after life he again referred more than once 
to what he had experienced then. In his early years at 
Eton he began his love of Thomas a Kempis. 

Julian Grenfell 

The holidays were rich for the two boys with every kind 
of sport. Julian had begun at seven years old to follow 
and track animals ; and at that age he could fire a gun, and 
could, with Billy, catch nineteen trout in an afternoon. 
They also went out stalking with their father. As they 
grew older, the holidays were filled with riding and 
shooting and fishing. At Baledmund, Julian got up at five 
every morning to go out after roe-deer, and here a sea- 
son's record of the two boys together was : " 277 grouse, 
41 partridges, 5 woodcock, 6 snipe, 4 caper-cailzie, 33 
hares, 210 rabbits and 6 roe-deer." Julian was master of 
the Eton Beagles while he was also editor of the Eton 
Chronicle, and near the top of the Sixth Form. 

In October, 1906, Julian went to Balliol. He was 6 ft. 
in. in height ; and Billy, who was sixteen, was taller. 
They were growing fast. In 1909 Billy went to Balliol 
too. They were both so full of happiness of life, there 
was no failure for them anywhere in their work or in their 
sport or in their friends. Billy wrote once : " I wish I 
was not so passionately addicted to pleasure ; I find my- 
self plotting for it every moment of the day, especially 
when I ought to be thinking of that solemn humbug 
Aristotle." Only Julian at one time seemed occasionally 
cold and removed from those around him; he was re- 
proached for not knowing more people in college ; and 
free and general intercourse continued for a while to be a 
difficulty with him in spite of his great love for his great 
friends, and he said : " I wish social plans had one neck and 
me a knife." Billy, writing after Julian had died to a friend 
who had known him at Oxford, said : " You knew all the 
mysticism and idealism, and that strange streak of melan- 
choly which underlay Julian's war-whooping, sun-bath- 
ing, fearless exterior." And sometimes Julian was ill and 
depressed, the result of his great growth, and because he 
never spared his body the rigorous training necessary to 
the athlete. The worst form depression could take with 
him was when he felt himself separated from God. If he 
lost his sense of communion with God, he could not be 
happy or well until he was possessed of it again. 

Reading aloud had been a great feature of their young 

Julian Grenfell 

family life, and lasted after they were grown up. When 
they were away they liked to send their mother lists of 
what they read. From Billy, for instance : " I am 
reading, in various stages, The Shaving of Shagpat, The 
Egoist, Redgauntlet, Garibaldi, the Homeric Hymns, 
Aristotle, and Virgil." And from Julian : " I've read 
Gilbert Murray's Hippolytus again the best thing ever; 
some Dante Rossetti ; the Psalms ; the Imitatio Christi ; 
and Belloc, endlessly." Nothing of what they read or 
what they did was complete until they had discussed it 
with their mother. 

And this leads to the crowning glory of their lives, so 
that in any record which is permitted of them there is one 
quality which must stand out beyond all their other ones ; 
they were two young men who had a passion of filial love. 
This is a kind of love which the war has revealed in such a 
degree that its quality can be plainly seen and dwelt upon, 
like a comet that has swum closer. It has found most 
beautiful expression in many books of privately-printed 
letters, both in French and English. Its quality is 
different from the two other great forms of love, maternal 
love, and men and women's love. It is not, like those, 
prompted by Nature ; it is one of the emotions that be- 
long to man when he transcends Nature, and takes upon 
himself divine virtue. Nature inspires those other loves, 
and adorns them with joy and rewards them with happi- 
ness. But filial love has not even a beginning in Nature, it 
is not found there, and is divine from the first. And never 
can it have been more faithful and more passionate than it 
was in these two. It was never narrowed down to ties of 
habit or gratitude or dependence, for with them it was 
beauty, it was humour, it was thought, it was the best of 

In 1910 Julian's brilliant time at Oxford came to an end. 
His horizon widened to take in distant countries to which 
he would soon travel to take in, too, all the distant 
hopes of his mind eager for truth. He had written from 
Balliol : " I utterly agree that building up character for its 
own sake is a blank dead thing, with no ultimate end . . . 
But I am just dimly beginning to see my end, I do believe; 

Julian Grenfell 

very little and very dim, but still a beginning. And of 
course I agree that an ultimate end must satisfy all the 
needs of the soul ; it must do more than that, it must be 
far, far, far above and beyond all those needs, a pure ideal, 
something wholly unattainable, you must have millions of 
miles of outlook." It had been arranged from earliest 
years that he was to be a soldier, and that Billy would go 
to the Bar. Julian passed in to the army First of all the 
University candidates. His regiment, the Royal Dra- 
goons, was in India ; his last months in England, before join- 
ing it, were full of the joy of keen sport and of his friends. 
One of the best loved companions of Julian's life was Lord 
Lucas ; they had their unspeakable gallantry in common, 
both in life and death. This friend wrote when Julian 
died : " You know that I was fonder of Julian than of any 
living man, and never can anyone else be the same to me 
as he was ... I think of all the happy times we had, and 
of his spirits, his keenness, his skill, his intense enjoyment 
of everything that boy or man, sportsman or poet, loves ; 
and it seems that a great part of my life is torn from me." 

In November Julian sailed for India, and there the new 
forms of sport, the buck-stalking and polo, filled him with 
delight. " The pig-sticking is beyond dreams, I can't 
tell you what it means to me ; it is coursing with human 
greyhounds." He wrote, too : " The rains have come, 
but not real continuous rains; we go out on odd days to 
stick pig, in country blind with new bright green grass, so 
that you gallop down a hidden well without any warning 
and without much surprise. I'm afraid all other sports will 
fall flat after this." And he has got the very essence of 
sport iron-hardness, and suspense, and glorious speed 
into his letters from " this jungly place," where 
" directly the rains come, the grass grows as fast as a horse 

In the winter of 1911 the regiment was moved to 
South Africa. At first Julian was dismayed by the 
change and felt himself an outcast in a barren place. 
In a letter he said : " I do hate thinking of having 
missed a wonderful English spring, in this pestilential 
continent where spring makes no difference, and comes in 

Julian Grenfell 

the autumn." But soon he said : " I am getting fond of 
it in a way, almost against my better self," and he grew 
to love the veldt with its " terrific greatness and greenness 
and dullness and bleakness." In South Africa he had his 
greyhounds with him ; he had always had a special love 
for these animals ; he had owned them from the time when 
he was nineteen, when in an autumn in Scotland the whole 
family after packing themselves into a small motor for 
excursions would have the greyhounds poured on the top 
of them like water. He now wrote a poem To a Black 
Greyhound, of which this is part : 

Shining black in the shining light, 
Inky black in the golden sun, 
Graceful as the swallow's flight, 
Light as swallow, winged one, 
Swift as driven hurricane, 
Double-sinewed stretch and spring, 
Muffled thud of flying feet 
See the black dog galloping, 
Hear his wild foot-beat. 

See him lie when the day is dead, 

Black curves curled on the boarded floor. 

Sleepy eyes, my sleepy-head 

Eyes that were aflame before. 

Gentle now, they burn no more ; 

Gentle now and softly warm, 

With the fire that made them bright 

Hidden as when after storm 

Softly falls the night. 

He wrote : " I've never had such good long dogs as now ; 
four great big lashing dogs, and this little pup, who is the 
best of the lot. I do think that greyhounds are the most 
beautiful things on earth ; they have got all the really 
jolly things affection, and courage unspeakable, and 
speed like nothing else, and sensitiveness and dash and 
grace and gentleness, and enthusiasm." He never cared to 
be parted from them. He took some greyhounds even 
out to France with him, and in one of the last letters 
that he wrote before he received his mortal wound he 


Julian Grenfell 

said : " The long dogs were very good when I got back 
here. A kind woman at the farm had kept and fed them for 
me. One had been run over by a motor-bus, but was none 
the worse. We arrived in the middle of the night, and 
when they heard my voice they came out of the yard like 
shrapnel bursting. ' Comrade ' jumped up on to my 
horse's shoulder, and when he fell back they all started 
fighting like hell from sheer joy ! " In South Africa he 
also played polo. "My ponies," he said, "are like Greek 
sculpture, only with a neater style of galloping ; just think 
how tired it would make you to play eight chukkers on 
horses which always had four legs in the air at once." He 
wrote also : " The ground is composed of holes and 
stones, thinly covered by a rough grass called Prati- 
vesticula. Thus for the horseman two alternatives lie open. 
Either you fall over the stone into the hole ; when all 
that has to be done is to roll the stone on top of you, and 
write the epitaph on it. Or, if you are careless enough to 
come down in the hole, and fall on to the stone, they have 
to lift your body, place it back in the hole, lift the stone, 
clean it, roll it on top of you, etc. which means ' more 
work for the undertaker.' I hope you follow me ? " Julian 
was a renowned boxer, and he scattered challenges into 
the unknown. Of a fight he had in Johannesburg he 
wrote : 

A man who was in training for the Amateur Championship 
said he would come and fight me. He was a fireman, called Tye ; 
he used to be a sailor, and he looked as hard as a hammer. I 
quaked in my shoes when I saw him, and quaked more when I 
heard he was 2 to I on favourite for the Championship, and 
quaked most when my trainer went to see him, and returned with 
word that he had knocked out two men in a quarter of an hour. 
We went into the ring on the night, and he came straight for me 
like a tiger, and hit left and right ; I stopped the left, but it 
knocked my guard aside, and he crashed his right clean on to the 
point of my jaw. I was clean knocked out ; but by the fluke of 
Heaven I recovered and came to and got on my feet again by the 
time they had counted six. I could hardly stand, and I could 
only see a white blur in front of me ; but I just had sense to keep 
my guard up, and hit hard at the blur whenever it came within 
range. He knocked me down twice more, but my head was 

Julian Grenfell 

clearing every moment, and I felt a strange sort of confidence 
that I was master of him. I put him down in the second round, 
with a right counter, which shook him ; he took a count of eight. 
In the third round I went in to him, and beat his guard down 
then crossed again with the right, and felt it go right home, with 
all my arm and body behind it. I knew it was the end, when I 
hit ; and he never moved for twenty seconds. They said it was 
the best fight they had seen for years in Johannesburg, and my 
boxing men went clean off their heads, and carried me twice 
round the hall. I was 1 1 stone 4 lb., and he was n stone 3 lb., 
and I think it was the best fight I shall ever have. 

All this time in India and South Africa he was working 
hard at his profession. He had, too, been kept supplied 
with books from England. He wrote : "Thank you for 
copying ' Since there's no help.' I'm reading no litera- 
ture now, only Military Law with both eyes ; it is just 
the opposite to literature, and is expressed throughout 
in just the wrong words and just the wrong way." He 
said in another letter in relation to a book he had 
read : " I hate material books, centred on whether 
people are successful. I like books about artists and 
philosophers and dreamers and anybody who is a 
little off his dot." He wrote again : " I agree with what 
you say about success, but I like the people best who take 
it as it comes, or doesn't come, and are busy about 
unpractical and ideal things in their heart of hearts all the 
time." Julian was now as always fulfilling his " great 
task of happiness," which made all his life seem like one 
long act of praise. " I'm so happy here," he wrote, " I 
love the Profession of Arms, and I love my fellow officers 
and all my dogs and all my horses." In the midst of 
cramming for his Promotion Examination he made a high 
jump on his horse Kangaroo which was a record for South 
Africa, clearing 6 ft. 5 in. over a wall with bricks on the 

In July, 1914, he was dwelling on the prospect of leave in 
England when the first rumours of war reached him. He 
longed for England for different reasons now. He was 
afraid at first that his regiment might be kept in South 
Africa or sent to Egypt. He wrote : " Don't you think 


Julian Grenfell 

it has been a wonderful and almost incredible rally to the 
Empire ; with Redmond and the Hindus and Will Crooks 
and the Boers and the South Fiji Islanders all aching to 
come and throw stones at the Germans. It reinforces 
one's failing belief in the Old Flag and the Mother 
Country and the Heavy Brigade and the Thin Red Line, 
and all the Imperial Idea, which gets rather shadowy in 
peace time, don't you think ? But this has proved it to 
be a real enough thing." 

On September 2oth Julian reached England and 
went with his regiment straight to Salisbury Plain. He 
had two days' leave at home. On the night of October 
5th the Royals left for France. " It seems too good to be 
off at last," Julian wrote : " Everyone is perfectly bird." 

Julian's sister Monica had already become in the first 
days of the war a probationer at the London Hospital, and 
Billy had got his commission as 2nd Lieutenant in the 
Rifle Brigade. It had been suggested to Billy that he 
might postpone joining the Army until after the All Souls' 
Examination in the autumn, for which he had been 
working hard. But he could not stay for the fruits of his 
work any more than he could stay for other things that 
made life glorious to him. They were already beginning 
to lose their friends that great company of their friends 
who would soon lie dead on many battle-fields, one of 
whom, Charles Lister, wrote just before he was killed in 
Gallipoli : " I know now that I shall live. I do not mean 
that I may not be killed." The first of these to go was 
Billy's dearest friend, John Manners, who in September 
was wounded and missing and was never heard of again. 
Billy translated from the Latin a poem written about him 
by Mr. Headlam : 

O heart-and-soul and careless played 

Our little band of brothers, 
And never recked the time would come 

To change our games for others. 
It's joy for those who played with you 

To picture now what grace 
Was in your mind and single heart 

And in your radiant face. 


Julian Grenfell 

Your light-foot strength by flood and field 

For England keener glowed ; 
To whatsoever things are fair 

We know, through you, the road ; 
Nor is our grief the less thereby ; 
O swift and strong and dear, Good-bye. 

These are extracts from some of Julian's letters from 
Flanders : 

" We have been fighting night and day ; first rest 
to-day for four days. The worst of it is, no sleep prac- 
tically. I cannot tell you how wonderful our men were, 
going straight for the first time into a fierce fire. They 
surpassed my utmost expectations. I have never been so 
fit or nearly so happy in my life before. I adore the 
fighting, and the continual interest which compensates 
for every disadvantage." 

" I longed to be able to say that I liked it, after all one 
has heard of being under fire for the first time. But it 
is beastly. I pretended to myself for a bit that I liked it, 
but it was no good, it only made one carelesss and un- 
watchful and self-absorbed ; but when one acknowledged 
to oneself that it was beastly, one became all right again, 
and cool. After the firing had slackened, we advanced 
again a bit into the next group of houses, which were the 
edge of the village proper. I cannot tell you how muddling 
it is. We did not know which was our front. We- did 
not know whether our own troops had come round us on 
the flanks, or whether they had stopped behind and were 
firing into us. And besides, a lot of German snipers were 
left in the houses we had come through, and every now 
and then bullets came singing by from God knows where. 
Four of us were talking and laughing in the road, when 
about a dozen bullets came with a whistle. We all dived 
for the nearest door, and fell over each other, yelling with 
laughter, into a very dirty outhouse. James Leckie, the 
Old Old Man, said ' I have a bullet through my best 
Sandon twillette breeches.' We looked, and he had. 
It had gone clean through. He did not tell us till two 
days afterwards that it had gone through him too." 

" Here we are, in the burning centre of it all, and I 


Julian Grenfell 

would not be anywhere else for a million pounds and the 
Queen of Sheba. The only thing is that there's no job 
for the cavalry. So we have just become infantry, and 
man the trenches. I believe we're getting entrenching 
tools, which is good hearing. We want them. Colonel 
Burn is taking this, so I've only time to write one word of 
love. He's off. He tells me I was reported dead. But 
there's life in the old dog yet ! Bless you both." 

" I have not washed for a week, or had my boots off for 
a fortnight. But we cook good hot food in the dark, in 
the morning before we start, and in the night when we 
get back to our horses ; and we take our good cold rations 
with us in the daytime. It is all the best fun. I have 
never, never felt so well, or so happy, or enjoyed anything 
so much. It just suits my stolid health, and stolid nerves, 
and barbaric disposition. The fighting-excitement vita- 
lizes everything, every sight and word and action. One 
loves one's fellow-man so much more when one is bent on 
killing him. And picnicking in the open day and night 
(we never see a roof now) is the real method of existence. 
There are loads of straw to bed-down on, and one sleeps 
like a log, and wakes up with the dew on one's face. The 
stolidity of my nerves surprises myself. I went to sleep 
the other day when we were lying in the trenches, with 
the shrapnel bursting within fifty yards all the time, and 
a noise like nothing on earth. The noise is continual and 
indescribable. The Germans shell the trenches with 
shrapnel all day and all night ; and the Reserves and 
ground in the rear with Jack Johnsons, which at last one 
gets to love as old friends. You hear them coming for 
miles, and everyone imitates the noise ; then they burst 
with a plump and make a great hole in the ground, doing 
no damage unless they happen to fall into your trench or 
on to your hat. They burst pretty nearly straight up- 
wards. One landed within ten yards of me the other day, 
and only knocked me over and my horse. We both got 
up and looked at each other, and laughed. It did not 
even knock the cigarette out of my mouth. . . . We took 
a German officer and some men prisoners in a wood the 
other day. One felt hatred for them as one thought of 


Julian Grenfell 

our dead ; and as the officer came by me,f I scowled at 
him, and the men were cursing him. The officer looked 
me in the face and saluted me as he passed, and I have 
never seen a man look so proud and resolute and smart 
and confident, in his hour of bitterness. It made me feel 
terribly ashamed of myself." 

"About the shells; after a day of them, one's nerves 
are really absolutely beaten down. I can understand now 
why our infantry have to retreat sometimes ; a sight 
which came as a shock to one at first, after being brought 
up in the belief that the English infantry cannot retreat. 
. . . We had been worried by their snipers all along, and 
I had always been asking for leave to go out and have a 
try myself. Well, on Tuesday the i6th, the day before 
yesterday, they gave me leave. Only after great difficulty. 
They told me to take a section with me, and I said I 
would sooner cut my throat and have done with it. So 
they let me go alone. Off I crawled through sodden clay 
and trenches, going about a yard a minute, and listening 
and looking as I thought it was not possible to look and 
listen. I went out to the right of our lines, where the 
loth were, and where the Germans were nearest. I took 
about thirty minutes to do thirty yards; then I saw the 
Hun trench, and I waited there a long time, but could 
see or hear nothing. It was about ten yards from me. 
Then I heard some Germans talking, and saw one put his 
head up over some bushes, about ten yards behind the 
trench. I could not get a shot at him ; I was too low 
down, and of course I could not get up. So I crawled 
on again very slowly to the parapet of their trench. It 
was very exciting. I was not sure that there might not 
have been someone there, or a little further along the 
trench. I peered through their loop-hole and saw nobody 
in the trench. Then the German behind put his head up 
again. He was laughing and talking. I saw his teeth 
glistening against my foresight, and I pulled the trigger 
very slowly. He just grunted, and crumpled up. The 
others got up and whispered to each other. I do not 
know which were most frightened, them or me. I think 
there were four or five of them. They could not trace 


Julian Grenfell 

the shot ; I was flat behind their parapet and hidden. I 
just had the nerve not to move a muscle and stay there. 
My heart was fairly hammering. They did not come 
forward, and I could not see them, as they were behind 
some bushes and trees, so I crept back inch by inch. 

" I went out again in the afternoon, in front of our bit 
of the line. About sixty yards off I found their trench 
again, empty again. I waited there for an hour, but saw 
nobody. Then I went back, because I did not want to 
get inside some of their patrols who might have been 
placed forward. I reported the trench empty. 

" The next day, just before dawn, I crawled out there 
again, and found it empty again. Then a single German 
came through the w r oods towards the trench. I saw him 
fifty yards off. He was coming along upright and careless, 
making a great noise. I heard him before I saw him. I 
let him get within twenty-five yards, and shot him in the 
heart. He never made a sound. Nothing for ten minutes, 
and then there was a noise and talking, and a lot of them 
came along, through the wood behind the trench about 
forty yards from me. I counted about twenty, and there 
were more coming. They halted in front, and I picked 
out the one I thought was the officer, or sergeant. He 
stood facing the other way, and I had a steady shot at 
him behind the shoulders. He went down, and that was 
all I saw. I went back at a sort of galloping crawl to our 
lines, and sent a message to the loth that the Germans 
were moving up their way in some numbers. Half an 
hour afterwards they attacked the loth and our right, in 
massed formation, advancing slowly to within ten yards 
of the trenches. We simply mowed them down. It was 
rather horrible. I was too far to the left. They did not 
attack our part of the line, but the loth told me in the 
evening that they counted 200 dead in a little bit of the 
line, and the loth and us only lost ten. 

" They have made quite a ridiculous fuss about me 
stalking, and getting the message through. I believe they 
are going to send me up to our General and all sorts. It 
was only up to someone to do it, instead of leaving it all 
to the Germans, and losing two officers a day through 


Julian Grenfell 

snipers. All our men have started it now. It is the 
popular amusement." 

He was twice mentioned in despatches, and when he 
came home for a week's leave in December he was wearing 
the D.S.O. ribbon. At the end of January, 1915, he again 
came back for a week, his last leave. In May he sent home 
the poem Into Battle: 

The naked earth is warm with Spring, 

And with green grass and bursting trees 
Leans to the sun's gaze glorying, 

And quivers in the sunny breeze ; 
And Life is Colour and Warmth and Light, 

And a striving evermore for these ; 
And he is dead who will not fight ; 

And who dies fighting has increase. 

The fighting man shall from the sun 

Take warmth, and life from the glowing earth ; 

Speed with the light-foot winds to run, 
And with the trees to newer birth ; 

And find, when fighting shall be done, 
Great rest, and fullness after dearth. 

All the bright company of Heaven 

Hold him in their high comradeship, 
The Dog-Star and the Sisters Seven, 

Orion's Belt and sworded hip. 

The woodland trees that stand together, 

They stand to him each one a friend, 
They gently speak in the windy weather ; 

They guide to valley and ridges' end. 
The kestrel hovering by day, 

And the little owls that call by night, 
Bid him be swift and keen as they, 

As keen of ear, as swift of sight. 

The blackbird sings to him, " Brother, brother, 
If this be the last song you shall sing 

Sing well, for you may not sing another ; 
Brother, sing." 

In dreary, doubtful, waiting hours, 

Before the brazen frenzy starts, 
The horses show him nobler powers ; 

O patient eyes, courageous hearts ! 


Julian Grenfell 

And when the burning moment breaks, 

And all things else are out of mind, 
And only Joy of Battle takes 

Him by the throat, and makes him blind 

Through joy and blindness he shall know, 

Not caring much to know, that still, 
Nor lead nor steel shall reach him, so 

That it be not the Destined Will. 

The thundering line of battle stands, 
And in the air Death moans and sings ; 

But Day shall clasp him with strong hands, 
And Night shall fold him in soft wings. 

Battle-poems are as various as any other kind of poem. 
The mere fighting-song usually ranks about on a level with 
the drinking-song. And though a poem of the actual 
movement of battle, of the march or the charge, may 
be fine, there is generally more passion in the war- 
poem that is still, the poem that is written in the 
pause ; the poem not of the end of battle, but of interval, 
of time for breathing and the recovery of consciousness 
of self after self-abandonment. And such is this poem. 
It is a wonderful work of the stillness of a soul's con- 
sciousness of itself. It is a fortunate man who can thus 
gather himself up in the realization of the duty he is 
about, and be so sure and so happy. Other people gather- 
ing themselves up in the calm of duties that are yet not 
terrible and not perplexing and not ambiguous as the 
duties of war must be wait long and in vain to feel such 
certainty and such joy. 

On the evening of May I2th the Royals were put about 
500 yards behind the front line, near the Ypres-Menin 
Road, to support an attack on the German trenches run- 
ning north from Hooge Lake. The Royals were behind 
a small hill : Julian spoke of it afterwards as the little hill 
of death. Early in the morning of the I3th the Germans 
started a terrific bombardment of this hill. Julian went 
up to the look-out post. He was knocked over by a shell, 
which only bruised him. He went down again and made 
the report of his observations. He then volunteered to 
get through with a message to the Somerset Yeomanry 


Julian Grenfell 

in the front line, which he succeeded in doing under very 
heavy fire. When he returned he again went up the hill, 
with his General. A shell burst four yards away, knocking 
them both down in a heap. A splinter had struck Julian's 
head. He said : " Go down, Sir, don't bother about me ; 
I'm done." The General helped to carry him down, and 
was wounded while doing so. Julian revived, but said to 
a brother officer: "Do you know, I think I shall die." 
When he was contradicted he said: "Well, you see if I 
don't." He was taken to the clearing-station. He asked 
there whether he was going to die, and said : "I only want 
to know ; I am not in the least afraid." He was then 
taken to the hospital at Boulogne, his sister coming from 
the Wimereux hospital, where she was nursing, to give 
him the care that he so loved to have from her. The 
surgeon asked him how long he had been unconscious 
after he was hit. He said : " I was up before the count." 
He had his parents beside him. His strength and youth 
were fighting against the deadly poison of his wound. 
During all those eleven days when he lay there he prayed, 
probably unaware that he often spoke aloud. Sometimes 
he prayed that he might be able to bear the pain. The 
Psalms and the hymns of his childhood were said to him 
aloud ; that was what he liked, also George Herbert's 
poems. The weather was very hot ; those beside him 
heard him repeat the song in Hippolytus : 

"O for a deep and dewy spring, 
With runlets cold to draw and drink, 
And a great meadow blossoming, 
Long-grassed, and poplars in a ring, 
To rest me by the brink. 

O, take me to the Mountain ; O, 
Past the great pines and through the wood, 
Up where the lean hounds softly go, 
A-whine for wild things' blood, 
And madly flies the dappled roe. 
O God, to shout and speed them there, 
An arrow by my chestnut hair 
Drawn tight, and one keen glimmering spear 
Ah, if I could! " 


Julian Grenfell 

" His voice was very weak. He said it with overpowering 

Billy arrived in France with his regiment, and came to 
Julian's bedside not, though they were like one soul, to 
mourn (during that time Julian never saw a face he loved 
look sad), but still to know the joy and triumph of all their 
living moments. And without having spoken one word 
contrary to that spirit of noble unfailing happiness, but 
having uttered many words of love, Juhan died on the 
afternoon of May 26th. 

Billy was already in the trenches, and during June and 
July he was constantly under fire. He wrote of Julian : 
" I love to think that he has attained that perfection and 
fullness of life for which he sought so untiringly. I seem 
to hear him cheering me on in moments of stress here 
with even more vivid power. There is no one whose 
victory over the grave can be more complete." He 
also wrote : " Death is such a frail barrier out here, men 
cross it so smilingly and gallantly every day, one cannot 
feel it as a severing in any way. Pray that I may bear 
myself bravely when the burning moment breaks." In 
July he wrote to his mother : " Darling Julian is so con- 
stantly beside me, and laughs so debonairly at my qualms 
and hesitations. I pray for one-tenth of his courage." 
On July 3Oth Billy was killed in a charge to take trenches 
near the Hooge crater. Leading his platoon, he attempted 
to cross the 250 yards of open ground under terrific 
machine-gun fire. He had gone 70 or 80 yards when he 
pitched forward dead. He was perfectly fearless ; he had 
been loved in an uncommon way for his great and lovely 
gifts, and it was said by his men that he had raised the 
standard of goodness about him. 

What can be our attitude of mind towards those who 
die thus and also towards those who endure their loss ? 
When pain and grief overwhelm their victims and conquer 
their endurance, then those who are within reach can 
bring their charity and lay it at the feet of the suffering 
all their most tender charity of love and compassion. But 
there are times when that charity is defied by something 
that is more heavenly than itself. Charity is a virtue of 

Julian Grenfell 

the earth ; its pity, its tolerance and its love, are like 
white angels dedicated to be the guardians of human 
failing and grief and sin, and in a sense charity will fade 
out in heaven like a ghost in daylight. And so even on 
earth it can stand aside, unneeded, while there go past 
swift figures, wounded by suffering and loss and death, 
their faces bright, too bright for resignation and too 
bright for pity and to watch such a figure go by is to 
see the immortal spirit. 




Letter written to Julian's mother by Charles Lister, not 
long before he was killed : 

Blue Sisters Convent, Malta. 

I can't write what I feel about dear Julian. The void is so 
terrible for me, and the thought of it quite unmans me. Pd so 
few ties with the life I left when I went abroad so few that is 
to say that I wanted to keep, and I always felt as sure of Julian's 
love as he did of mine, and so certain of seeing his dear old smile 
just the same. . . . 

I suppose everybody noticed dear Julian's vitality, but I don't 
think they were so conscious of that great tenderness of heart 
that underlay it. He always showed it most with you ; and with 
women generally it was his special charm. I think now of the 
way he used to take my hand if he had felt disappointed with 
anything I had done and then found out why I'd done it. I remem- 
ber a time when he was under the impression that I'd chucked 
Socialism for the " loaves and fishes," etc., etc.; and of course that 
sort of thing he couldn't abide, and he thought this for a longish while ; 
then found out that it wasn't that after all, and took my hand in his 
in the most loving way. 

I don't suppose many people knew what an ardent love he had 
for honesty of purpose, and intellectual honesty, and what sacrifices 
he made for them ; and sacrifices of peace-of-mind abhorrent to most 
Englishmen. . . . Julian, in his search for truth, and in his search 
for what he believed to be his true self, caused himself no end of worry 
and unhappiness, and was a martyr who lit his own fires with un- 
flinching nerve. Out stalking, he always wanted to do his own work t 
and he was just the same in his inner life. Surely the Lady he sought 
with tireless faith, the Lady for whom he did and dared so much on 
lonely paths will now reward him ? God, it is glorious to think of a 
soul so wholly devoid of the pettiness and humbug, the cynicism and 
dishonesty of so much that we see. There is a story in one of Miss 
Kingsley's books of a West African Medicine-man, who found 
himself at death's door. He applied all his herbs and spells, and 
conducted all his well-worn rites before his idols, and with his friends* 
intercessions without any effect. At last he wearied of his hocus- 
pocus, and took his idols and charms down to the sea-shore and 
flung them into the surf, and he said, " Now I will be a man and 
meet my God alone." Julian, from the time I knew him, had 
flung away his idols and had met God. His intense moral courage 
distinguished him even more than his physical bravery from the 
run of common men and his physical bravery was remarkable 
enough, whether he was hunting, boxing, or whatever he was at. 


Julian Grenfell 

/ think he found his true self on what we all knew would be the 
scene of his glory ; and it is some melancholy satisfaction that 
his services received recognition. What must make you still 
happier is the glorious glowing tone of those letters of his, and the 
knowledge that his last few months were " crowded hours of glorious 
life " stronger in death in that they abide. I shall never forget how 
much they heartened me, when I came to see you to get your kind 
offices for this show. *The recollection of them will be a constant 
strength. No one wrote of the War like that, or talked of it that way 
and so many went from Leave, or after healing wounds, as a duty, but 
without joy. Julian, apart from the physical delight he had in 
combat, felt keenly, I am sure, that he was doing something worth 
while in the world ; and looked on death and the passing beyond as a 
final burst into glory. He was rather Franciscan in his love of all 
things that are, in his absence of fear of all God's creatures death 

He stood for something very precious to me -for an England 
of my dreams, made of honest, brave, and tender men ; and his 
life and death have surely done something towards the realization 
of that England. "Julian had so many friends who felt for him as 
they felt for no one else, and a fierce light still beats on the scene 
of his passing, and others are left to whom he may leave his sword and 
a portion of his skill. 

You must have known all this splendour of 'Julian's life far 
better than I did, so I don't know why I should write all this. But I 
am so sad myself that I must say something to you, because you know 
how very fond I was of Julian. 

One can seek comfort at this time in the consciousness of the 
greatness of our dead, and the work they have left behind them, 
and the love we have borne them : and such comfort is surely 
yours apart from any larger Hope. 

Tours affectionately, 




In three volumes, I and II containing the Poetry, III 
Prose. With frontispieces. Buckram, 73. net each. 
Sold singly. 


THOMPSON. With Biographical Note by W. M., 
and Portrait. Buckram, 53. net. 

THE HOUND OF HEAVEN. By Francis Thomp- 
son. With a Portrait of the Poet and a facsimile of his 
MS. is. net. 

"One of the mosl tremendouspoemseverwritten." THE BISHOP OF LONDON. 

SHELLEY. By Francis Thompson. With a Preface by the 
Right Hon. George Wyndham, M.P. Buckram, 2s. 6d. net. 


E'Verard Meynell. 75. net. 


MEYNELL. With a Portrait after John S. Sargent, 
R.A. Buckram, 6s. net. 


By cilice Meynell. is. net. 


volume. Selected from previous books. Buckram, 6s. net. 

POEMS. By G. /(. Chesterton. Including : Lepanto and 

other War Poems ; Love Poems ; Religious Poems ; 

Rhymes for the Times; Ballades. With a Portrait. 

THE FLOWER OF PEACE. A selection of the 
Religious Poetry of Katharine Tynan. Printed on hand- 
made paper and bound in real parchment, richly gilt, 
\vith a frontispiece. 55. net. 


Printed on japon vellum. With a Biographical Note by 
W.M., and Portrait. Cloth, richly gilt, 2$. 6d. net. 

W T ith a Portrait. Cloth, printed on japon vellum, 
is. 6d. net. 


JOHNSON. W T ith a Biographical Note by W.M, 
2s. 6d. net. 


28 Orchard Street, London, W.